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Women demand more Cabinet seats

NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 13 – The League of Kenya Women Voters on Monday appealed to President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to appoint another woman to the Cabinet.

The League’s Chairperson Alice Wahome said they want the number of women in the Cabinet to remain the same despite the resignation of Martha Karua as Justice Minister.

Asked whether the League was fronting anyone to succeed the former Minister, Mrs Wahome said they hoped that President Mwai Kibaki would appoint a qualified and competent person to head the Justice and Constitutional Affairs docket.

“I think the President can, in his own discretion carry out a reshuffle. But we want to see the number (of women representatives) increased,” she appealed during a press briefing.

Before Ms Karua’s exit, there were seven women in the Grand Coalition Cabinet, which was the highest number since Kenya’s independence.

She said the post should not necessarily be filled by a woman but instead someone who has the ability to deliver reforms as outlined in Agenda Four of the Coalition Agreement such as the establishment of an electoral commission and local tribunal to try suspects of last year’s post election violence.

“It (the appointment) does not have to go by the party alignment. It is a very heavy docket with very many issues pending and so it should not be politicised. So we would like to see the post being given to a person who can handle those issues,” she stressed.

Lobbying for the seat is in top gear with reports indicating that some leaders from the ODM-K faction are pushing for the appointment of Nairobi Metropolitan Minister Mutula Kilonzo while another group is backing Local Government Assistant Minister Njeru Githae.

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At the press conference, the women however urged both the coalition partners to stop trivialising serious issues such as governance, corruption and accountability.

At the same time, the Women League added its voice to those opposed to calls for a snap election arguing that the country is not ready for such an exercise.

Mrs Wahome pointed to the polarisation of the country and the country’s weak financial capability as some of the reasons why an immediate election wouldn’t help solve the problems in the country.

“The voter registration has also not been done and therefore it is our position that the country cannot and is not ready to be pushed into elections. We would like to see the resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons and other issues addressed,” she maintained.

She also called upon President Kibaki and Prime Minister Odinga to establish a clear communication mechanism that would enable them to engage effectively.

This, Wahome said, would provide the necessary platform for the two principals to communicate instead of using the public arena to put their points across.

“The polarisation and the disagreement in the coalition government have been given attention when the country continues to wallow in hunger. This does not spell hope and peace for the country. We are therefore calling on the two principals to put in place proper mechanisms for engagement,” Mrs Wahome emphasised.

The two leaders have been castigated for airing their grievances in public forums instead of sorting them out behind closed doors.

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